There are Christians Who Don’t Support Black Lives Matter?
We recently learned about Jonathan Isaac, a basketball player and member of the Orlando Magic in the NBA. He made recently headlines for refusing to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt and refusing to kneel in solidarity with his teammates during the national anthem. Prior to that, I heard about a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants named Sam Coonrod. Sam, too, made headlines for his refusal to kneel in solidarity with the other members of his team during the national anthem.
While both Sam and Jonathan have the right to kneel or not kneel, it was their reasoning that gave me pause. You see, both Jonathan and Sam believe that they, as Christians, cannot support the Black Lives Matter movement. They both believed that their Christianity precludes them from doing things like wearing anything with Black Lives Matter on it or kneeling during the national anthem. (Check out my article “The Problem With Patriotism”).
“Anyone who would use scripture (their faith) to remain silent on issues of injustice is NOT a follower of Jesus!”
After making that post, I was contacted by a white, brother in Christ who stated he was concerned about some of the language I was using around Sam’s decision. He invited me to a private Zoom call for us to discuss and I took him up on the offer. I fully expected our call to be a fight. Instead, I heard the heart of a person who truly wants to advocate for black people, but feels compelled to do it in a way that doesn’t conflict with his personal beliefs. Honestly, I can respect that.
Black Lives Matter vs. “Black lives matter!”
During our conversation, my new friend asked me what I would say to Sam Coonrod about his actions, or lack thereof. My first thought was to inform him about the difference between the “black lives matter” rallying cry and the Black Lives Matter organization. He was unaware that there was a difference.
I once heard it explained like this: if during the course of a conversation with someone I were to encourage them to follow their dreams by saying, “just do it,” that’s not me necessarily referencing Nike organization, even though the phrase I used was synonymous with their slogan. One can exist independently of the other.
In the same way, the slogan “Black lives matter” is not necessarily referencing the Black Lives Matter organization. At the beginning of our conversation, I made it a point to bring this to his attention and to ask which of these he thought was problematic. He assured me that he is in agreement with the belief/slogan “black lives matter”, but there were some things about the Black Lives Matter organization that he could not support because of his Christian beliefs.
What’s the Issue With the Black Lives Matter Organization?
As we continued talking, I learned what things the Black Lives Matter organization stood for that my friend couldn’t get behind. His issues – and many other agree – are basically with the following (found on the Black Lives Matter organization website): support of the LGBTQ+ community and, more importantly, their statement on the disruption of the family. Let’s break these down. (I won’t get into our political discussion, but that has something to do with it as well).
Support of the LGBTQ+ Community
On the Black Lives Matter website, it says this:
“We are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location.
We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.”
Disruption of the Family
Here’s the other statement that my friend, and many other Christians, find problematic:
“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).”
Many Christians are of the belief that they cannot support the Black Lives Matter organization because of these things. From their perspective, these stances are anti-Christian.
Is There More to the Story?
In another post on social media, I said something to the effect of:
“The church owes an apology to women and to the LGBTQ+ community!”
Why do I believe this? It’s simple. We do not have to share ideologies for me to affirm your humanity! Blackness is not a monolith. There are black Christians, Jews, Muslims, and athiests. There are black people who are opposite gender loving, and same gender loving. There are black folks who are cisgender and transgender.
Remember that the Black Lives Matter organization was created in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer George Zimmerman. Its origins are a response to the clean anti-Black sentiment that resonates in this country, and this anti-Blackness is not limited to black males. It includes Black women like Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, Michelle Cusseaux. It includes Black transgender women like Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton who were both brutally murdered. It includes Black transgender men like Tony McDade and Black gay men like Kawaski Trawick. All of them are black, all of them were killed by police officers, and all of them deserve to still be alive.
By saying that Christians should not support Black Lives Matter are we saying that the church should remain silent in response to these deaths? Are we saying that they deserve to die because of their lifestyle? What is our silence saying?
In Matthew 5:41, Jesus says this:
“Whoever compels you to go one mile with him, go with him two miles.”
Here’s what Jesus didn’t say:
“Whoever compels you to go one mile with him, make sure you find out what they believe first. And if what they believe is different from what you believe, then screw them! They deserve whatever happens to them.”
There need not be theological consensus for us to support one another. We can, and should, demand justice for the oppressed even if we have different beliefs, religions, and lifestyles.
The Bigger Issue
The larger issue, however, seems to be with some Christian’s inability to make space for people who believe differently than them. When some Christians read the Black Lives Matter statement that says, “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” they stop reading there with horror on their face. All they saw was “DISRUPT THE FAMILY!”
One could read this statement and think that the goal of the Black Lives Matter organization is to make sure that there are no more two-opposite-gender-loving parents making and raising children the *normal* way.
But, I believe the next word in the mission statement makes all the difference: requirement. Does their mission statement mean that they want to do away with the family? Or does it mean that they want to ensure that non-traditional families that are uplifted, seen, and heard?
Again, by saying that Christians should not support the Black Lives Matter organization, are we saying that these lives and families do not matter? Do we as Christians not have the ability to make room for family structures that may not look like ours without feeling like ours is being threatened?
Paul said this in Romans 14:1-4:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?
While Paul here was talking about the food laws, I think the same spirit applies. You can welcome people who have a different interpretation of scripture and even a different belief system than you without having to say that your belief system is “under attack”.
We serve a big God.
An Important Thing to Remember About “Black Lives Matter”
Just before we closed our conversation, I told my new friend that the last thing I would say to Sam Coonrod is this: your non-support of the Black Lives Matter organization is no excuse to remain silent on the issues for which Black Lives Matter is fighting for.
If you are a Christian, whether or not you support Black Lives Matter has little-to-no bearing on where you should stand in terms of justice, equality, and love for all. The responsibility is yours to find an organization that is doing the work and to support that work.
One way or another, silence is not an option.
So What Do You Think?
Should Christians support the Black lives matter movement? What about the Black Lives Matter organization?
Sound off in the comments below.